Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20, 2004: The Best of Times

October 20th, the holiest of holy days for Red Sox fans everywhere. They may have actually broke the 86 year championship drought a week later, but this was in many ways bigger. History was made and it was made at the expense of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was the best of times for the Red Sox and the worst day in Yankee history.
The Red Sox didn't just win Game 7 but they dominated it. It was over before it even started. The Red Sox finally snapped and beat up their long time bully. After two innings it was 6-0 Red Sox as David Ortiz continued his domination of Yankee pitching with a homer in the first inning. Johnny Damon hit a grand slam in the second inning. Mark Bellhorn would back up his huge homer in Game 6 with another homer in Game 7 and then Damon would homer one more time to complete the scoring. It was surreal. After three excruciating nights of nail biting games, the Red Sox exploded in Game 7. The last few innings were a coronation. Yankee fans were silenced in disbelief while Red Sox fans became louder and louder as each out was counted down. The Red Sox had their own party in Yankee Stadium.

The locker room scene after the game said it all. A huge weight had been lifted on a franchise and a fan base. Theo Epstein talked about payback for the 1949, 1978 and of course the 2003 failures to the Yankees. It was as emotional as anything I have ever witnessed. I was a grown man of 30 years old fighting back tears of joy. The tears would be there again a week later when the Sox would finish their sweep of the Cardinals and become World Champions but this night meant more in so many ways. It was revenge, the ultimate revenge.

The Red Sox were often associated with their failures, their choking and their 86 year drought. October 20th, 2004 erased all of that. No team in baseball history had ever come back to win a series after being down 3-0. The Red Sox had become the first that night and the Yankees instantly became the first team in MLB history to ever lose a series after being up 3-0. The Yankees were now associated with the biggest choke in baseball history. The 2011 Red Sox collapsed in September and by the numbers it was the worst collapse in baseball history but many teams have had big leads and blew it down the stretch in the regular season. The collapse was awful but it had been done before and besides it was for a wild card spot and the team that passed the Red Sox was the Tampa Rays, not the Yankees. There is no comparison.

The 2004 ALCS series will never go away. As long as sports is played and as long as teams go up 3-0 in a series the 2004 ALCS will be referenced. October 20th is the culmination of that miracle, the worst night in Yankee history, the best night in Red Sox history and fittingly the birthday of Mickey Mantle

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